So how about that stretch run to eighth? With the attention to the NCAA tournament the last few weeks, I get the sense fans are growing more excited about the possibilities for two No. 1 picks, and perhaps the No. 1 overall. Though the Bulls will get a good player if they get that top pick, I expect them to make a big effort to deal it and a player to maybe shake someone like Kevin Garnett loose. You can see him inching toward a trade demand and with a little creativity, the Bulls could put together a good enough package for Minnesota and still have a team that could compete in the East. Shaq probably has one good season left and you're never going to convince me about the Nets. This could be a very exciting summer for the Bulls. As for what you've been thinking:
If you were the Bulls GM this summer whom would you choose with the first of the two picks in the first round: Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge, LSU's Tyrus Thomas, UConn's Rudy Gay, Gonzaga's Adam Morrison or someone else? After watching the NCAA tournament I would pick Thomas, who seems to be a perfect athletic PF/SF for the Bulls. --Justin DuBois, River Falls, Wis.
Here's the problem. Thomas probably is only about 6-8. Aldridge is much taller, and let's remember first we're not sure either is coming out. Thomas reminds scouts more of a Shawn Marion type athlete who can block shots, though not quite the power player of an Amare Stoudemire. The Bulls would like to have size along with Tyson Chandler and Aldridge fits that. My guess, in the end, if they have the No. 1 pick is they go for Florida's Joakim Noah, who has size, intangibles and the work ethic they admire. I don't see a great star in this draft, especially among the big men, so take a guy who can help right away and for a long time and who fits what you are trying to do.
How about a trade for Carlos Boozer? It appears he and Utah are not happy together, so I think the Bulls might not have to give up too much to get him. If he's healthy, he could provide low post scoring the Bulls badly need plus he actually gets the idea of team defense and rebounding unlike Eddy Curry. --Al Garcia, Aurora, Ill.
Interesting idea. It's possible he ends up with the Lakers, where he was rumored to be going before getting hurt last year. He's come back strong and while not a classic low post, back-to-the-basket type, he runs the court well and gives an additional scoring dimension. He's a little smallish at his position, perhaps 6-8, though Karl Malone wasn't the tallest guy. One of the Bulls' key options is to use their cap room less for this weak free-agent market than to take on a contract a team might want to get out from. Boozer seems to qualify for that category with his uneasy relationship with management and series of injuries. He'd be better for the Bulls than anyone on the free-agent market and could turn out to be part of a legitimate deal with the Bulls giving Utah a role player like Michaal Sweetney.
In your previous Q&A, you mentioned how the Bulls "missed on Tyson Chandler" because it was hard to evaluate him since he had only played against high school level talent. How do you explain them "missing" on him again when the wrongly decided to give him a $60+ million contract? Living in LA and watching Elton Brand is a painful reminder of that awful trade. --Mark, Los Angeles
Easy on Tyson. Maybe he's not what everyone wants him to be, but he does try and does care. I'd long felt if I had to pay one of them, I would have paid Chandler over Eddy Curry because of Chandler's work ethic. No, he's never going to become a proficient offensive player. There are a lot of reasons: small hands, nerves, poor fundamentals. But I believe he'll get better and develop a passable jump shot eventually. Hey, Ben Wallace still can't make a free throw and nobody's throwing him back. Once a guy gets paid you have to forget the money and judge his value as a player. Chandler can do some things. He can rebound, block and change shots. The measure of a coach is to take what a player can do and try to limit or avoid what he cannot. The Bulls have tried to do that with Chandler and I believe he'll eventually reward them with a better offense, if not a polished game. Remember, a few years ago he was out almost all season injured and this summer sat and waited for his contract. With some security, health and a work ethic, I expect him to improve the next two seasons. He's no Elton, but that's not his fault.
When is the last time you saw Michael Jordan? How did he react to you? Do you have any rapport with him, or is he still upset about the books? --John Sastry, Webster Groves, Mo.
Michael hasn't always been happy with me, but he's always dealt with me professionally. After "The Jordan Rules" was published in 1991, he was upset with me, though less, I think, about what was in the book since there was nothing particularly embarrassing or harmful. He never once has spoken to me about the book or mentioned it. I'd had a good, professional relationship with him and back then, since the media traveled with the players, we spent some time together with an occasional dinner. I believe he felt I'd broken some sort of code by writing about him, though, I always told him anything that went on in basketball was fair game. I said I'd keep his family and personal life out of my writing and always did. We had some brief, not unfriendly conversations when he was with the Wizards, but always only on basketball. He always treated me, no matter how he may have felt, with respect in public situations and answered my questions as he would anyone else's. I never walked by to chat as some reporters did and as I once did when he was with the Bulls. He rarely speaks to reporters anymore and I've only seen him in passing at a few Bulls games. I always liked him and found him a man's man type who was fun to be around because of that legendary competitive nature as everything from a conversation to your favorite movie was a contest. I don't believe he thinks about me anymore. He seems to have done pretty well for himself.
Sam, what's the Bulls best move this off-season? Trade their two picks in a package for a star forward like Garnett or Brand (whom I'd love to see back), or keep the picks and go for the best two players available? --Simon, Brisbane, Australia
As Luc Longley would say, let's throw a shrimp guard on a bar-b-que. Heard that one, eh mate? No wonder Americans can't figure out the rest of the world. By the way, I've gotten several questions from Australia, where former Tribune editor Howard Tyner now lives and may be sending questions under various aliases. And the Bulls like Luke Schensher. I expect he'll at least be with them this summer. I believe they'll make a run for an available star with Garnett first on the list and becoming increasingly upset, and then listen regarding Jermaine O'Neal, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, if they become available. Though in the end I see them proceeding slowly through the draft, going for a big man first like Aldridge, Thomas, Duke's Josh McRoberts or Noah and then hoping the Knicks collapse again next season and they can swap No. 1's under terms of the Curry deal and end up with Greg Oden, who'll be the next great NBA player.
If the Bulls could (hypothetically) have any player in the NBA, who would you choose for them and why? I'm a big fan of Hinrich's, why do you think he's such an underrated player in the league and the media? --Sara Feola, Rockville, Md.
Even though we're operating hypothetically, I cannot include everyone, though Tim Duncan would be the obvious answer. The Bulls need size, especially an inside guy who can draw a double team. That would make them an instant contender. Which is why I've long talked about Kevin Garnett. I don't honestly see LeBron James leaving Cleveland, Chris Bosh leaving Toronto or Dwyane Wade leaving Miami. As for Hinrich, I think he'll get his due once the Bulls become a winning team. The Bulls get more trade inquiries about him than any of their players.
After watching the Portland pathetic excuse for an NBA franchise, I realized the only legit player they have is Zack Randolph. They are clearly in rebuilding mode. That being said, with the Bulls having major cap room, two draft picks and some young talent, do you think Pax has even considered acquiring Randolph in an off-season trade? He would satisfy our need for a big man! --Jeremy Lynn, Wheeling, Ill.
Not mine. I think Randolph is a problem and selfish player. He has talent, but isn't that big, maybe 6-8 or 6-9, and stops the ball to make his moves. Everyone ends up standing around watching and Skiles doesn't coach that kind of system. With a long contract, I don't see Randolph buying in. The Bulls can and will do much better, even in the draft.
I live in Belize City, Central America. We have a big debate going on in the gym where I work out about who is the better ball player between Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade. In your opinion, according to statistics, who is better of the two? Secondly, is Kobe considered the best ballplayer in the NBA today? --Kevin Cadle, Belize City, Belize
Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA. Steve Nash may be the MVP and Dirk Nowitzki may get more wins and LeBron James more highlight clips, but Kobe is the best combination of ferocious competitor and overall skill. Wade is terrific, but doesn't have the perimeter shooting game yet nor the experience and success in truly big games.
Sam, what is your opinion of Memphis' Rodney Carney? If the Bulls are able to fill some of their needs down low by signing a Nene, Al Harrington or Nazr Mohammed, would he be worth taking with our No. 1 pick from the Knicks? Carney has unbelievable athletic ability, plays good defense, and, judging by what he says, he appears to be a team-first guy. He seems to have a huge upside and may even become a star player, kind of like a Vince Carter. Plus, a 3-guard lineup (which seems to be gaining in popularity in the NBA) with Hinrich, Gordon and Carney would be one of the best in the league. If we were able to land him and a post-guy like Sheldon Williams with our next pick, we will have filled some major holes with quality guys. Your thoughts? --Joe O'Malley, Warrenville, Ill.
I believe there's some interesting combinations out there for the Bulls, though the problem with adding two draft picks is adding two draft picks: Young teams don't go far in the NBA. Yes, I believe they'll sign someone from among the free agents you mention, though all are really role players. It's probably the way they'll go for now with a Pistons-like team of good players who work hard and defend. As for Carney, I have my doubts and certainly not with the top pick. He's probably more a small forward and the whispers are he is a little on the wild side and not the kind of heady player the Bulls prefer.
Ask Sam Smith
The Tribune's pro basketball writer answers' readers questions about the NBA, the Bulls and even life
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